Behavioural study is too dry for its own good

Behavioural study is too dry for its own good
JC Penney: the US store misread buyer psychology and lost sales by rounding up items to the nearest dollar

Non-fiction: Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics. By Richard H Thaler. Allen Lane, €26.60. Reviewed by Brendan Daly

In 2012, the chief executive of the US department store chain JC Penney announced that he was ending “fake prices”. All products ending in .99 – the mythical suggested retail price – would be rounded up to the nearest dollar.

The decision was a disaster: JC Penney’s sales and stock price plummeted. Although customers were scarcely paying more, they were losing out on the pleasure of paying less than the suggested retail price – say, $9.99 instead of $10.

While the...

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